Hong Kong — Imagine if Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates disappeared from public view and it was automatically assumed they had been arrested on the orders of President Joe Biden and were being interrogated in a secret government jail.

That is the situation in the world’s second-biggest economy, where Jack Ma, the Bezos of China with more than $50bn to his name, has appeared just once since October — in a short video that did little to quell speculation he was being held hostage by the state...

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